2009 is the new 1943: Welcome Back, Steel Penny

There have a been a couple of numesmatic debates that have seemed endless over the past few decades.  One, of couse, has been around the eventual death of the paper dollar.  The second, almost as persistent, has been about the death of the US one cent piece, aka, “the penny”.

A friend of mine at work pointed me to this site, Retire the Penny.

For the most part, the call to retire the penny has been made on the back of two basic arguments:

  1. Nuisance.  People don’t value them anyway, and tend to just stuff them in dishes, jars, piggy banks, or literally on the ground.
  2. Cost.  With the rising cost of metals like copper and zinc, the cost of the penny has actually exceeded one cent, meaning that we lose money every year.  In fact, people are melting them down, illegally, spurring law enforcement action.

On Friday, May 9th, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 5512, which gives the US Mint 270 days to change the base metal of the US one cent and five cent pieces to more affordable metals.  The current bill actually calls for “copper-colored steel”, although there are arguments for even more cost effective metals.  From CoinNews.net:

The House debated on the legislation and finally voted yesterday to change the metallic composition of the penny and 5-cent nickel to a less expensive copper-colored steel.

Although the prices of copper, zinc and nickel metals in coins have declined in recent months, the penny and 5-cent nickel still cost more to make than what they’re worth—resulting in a reported loss of about $100 million every year, or $1 billion over a decade.

It now costs about 1.26 cents to make the penny and about 7.7 cents to make the nickel.

House bill “H.R. 5512, the Coin Modernization and Taxpayer Savings Act of 2008” would seek to change those manufacturing costs by using copper-colored steal, which could cut the cost of making pennies down to about 0.7 cents each. But its recent passage in the House is no guarantee it’ll make its way to the White House for signing.

H.R. 5512 must still go through the Senate and then the President, and not everyone is happy with the current legislation.

Personally, I’ve always loved the steel pennies from 1943, the one year that they were switched due to wartime rationing of copper.  I even bought a few hundred on eBay just for fun.

Little known fact – Canada switched to a copper-colored steel penny a few years ago.  Who knew?

This type of change will remove the second argument against keeping the penny.  Personally, I think the penny is largely retiring itself. As more and more retail institutions display “give a penny, take a penny” dishes, they are effectively making the cent unnecessary for transactions.

This is all very interesting given that 2009 is designed to be a celebratory year for the penny, marking 100 years of the Lincoln cent, with collectible versions made out of pure copper.

Controversary Over the Proposed Washington DC Quarter for 2009

Don’t know how I missed this, but last month Guam, American Samoa, and Washington D.C. submitted designs to the US Mint for their 2009 quarters.

If you aren’t following this, the 50 State Quarter program ends this year, in 2008, with the 50th state, Hawaii rounding out the end of the year.  Congress passed a bill that added one year to the program in 2009, to cover Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the US Territories.

Here is an article on the American Samoa submission.  Here is another on Guam‘s submission.  Kind of cool that it has a Spanish motto on it.

Here is an article about Washington D.C.’s submissions, which included the motto, “Taxation Without Representation“, a historical reference and sly cut at Washington D.C.’s current status lacking congressional representation.

“The new quarter will teach people across the country about our city and its history. It’s my hope that those who don’t know about our disenfranchisement will soon learn about it when they’re paying a toll or buying a soda.”

The US Mint rejected their submissions as too controversial.

“Although the United States Mint expresses no position on the merits of this issue, we have determined that the proposed inscription is clearly controversial and, therefore, inappropriate as an element of design for United States coinage.”

Nothing like a little drama around coin design.

Drat. Hope I didn’t miss Elizabeth Monroe.

Just found out that I missed the launch date for the 5th First Spouse gold coin (the first in 2008).  It is the coin for Elizabeth Monroe, and it officially launched on Feb 28th.

It really irritates me that the US Mint doesn’t support the subscription option for these coins.  To me, the subscriptions are exactly what you want as a collector.  You decide to commit to a series, and then, automatically, when they launch new coins, they send you the coin and bill you.

I have subscriptions for a few series over the past five years, and they’ve been excellent.  No problems, no issues.

I’m still not sure I have the willpower to jump every 2 months or so to try and get one of the first spouse coins.

Just for reference, here are the 2008 First Spouse Gold Coins:

The New $5 Bill Has Launched. Next Up, the $100 C-Note.

Wow.  I think this is the smoothest marketing video I have ever seen… for a federal reserve note.  Check this out:

Moneyfactory.gov: The New $5 Bill

Here is the press release.  Here is a list of the new security features.  Here is the website for the new bill.  Here is a glossy PDF of the front of the bill and the back of the bill.

The new $5 bill incorporates state-of-the-art security features that are easy to use by cash handlers and consumers alike. Hold the bill to the light to check for these features:

  • Watermarks: There are now two watermarks on the redesigned $5 bill. A large number “5” watermark is located in a blank space to the right of the portrait replacing the previous watermark portrait of President Lincoln found on the older-design $5 bills. A second watermark – a column of three smaller “5”s – has been added to the new $5 bill design and is positioned to the left of the portrait.
  • Security Thread: The embedded security thread runs vertically and is now located to the right of the portrait on the redesigned $5 bill. The letters “USA” followed by the number “5” in an alternating pattern are visible along the thread from both sides of the bill. The thread glows blue when held under ultraviolet light.

No big surprises here, really.  These are all features we’ve seen on the new $50, $20, $10, $5.  They aren’t redoing the $1, so next up is the $100, which will feature 650,000 micro-lenses.

Interestingly, my blog post on the $100 redesign has now become part of wikipedia, generating regular traffic to this blog (at least a few hits each day).

Would love to see a $500 Bill and $1000 Bill, to match the 500 Euro note.  But I doubt we’ll see it soon.

No More Godless Presidential Dollar Coins, 6 New “State” Quarters for 2009

Today, the White House announced that it has signed into law H.R. 2764, with $555 Billion in total spending, and which includes over $10 Billion in earmarks. That part is not really good news. You can read the text of the bill, if you want to, here.

However, as Coinnews.net reported today, the bill includes two key coin-collecting gems.

6 More State Quarters. Yes, you read that right. Just because we ran out of states does not mean that the US Government will let the best new coin series end without a fight. Six more coins will debut in 2009, highlighting 6 great territories that aren’t states, but still deserve to be celebrated with two bits:

  1. The District of Columbia
  2. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
  3. Guam
  4. American Samoa
  5. The United States Virgin Islands
  6. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

“…Coins minted under this subsection honoring the District of Columbia and each of the territories shall be issued in equal sequential intervals during 2009 in the following order: the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.”

The US Mint Press Release is here. Designs for these coins have not been published yet, but I will post them here when they are ready. Note that this is 6 coins for 2009, not the normal 5 per year that have marked the program to date. Without this bill, the quarter would have returned to its old design in 2009, since Hawaii, our 50th state, gets its own quarter at the tail end of 2008.

No More Godless Presidential Dollar Coins. Or at least, they’ll be harder to come by. This bill also includes text that mandates that the text “In God We Trust” move off the edge of the coin, and to one of the faces. Due to space considerations, this will likely mean moving to the face of the coin with the President.The text was moved to the edge, of course, to give more space on the face of the coin for the Presidential image. But, with the release of the first coin, there was a large error rate with the Philidelphia mint version that led to the creation of “godless dollars“, with no edge text. Despite the fact that this problem has not been repeated with the 3 subsequent coins for John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, a cottage industry has sprung up of people sanding the text off the edge of dollar coins.

In any case, the bill does not say when this change will be made, but that it “shall be put into effect by the Secretary of the Treasury as soon as is practicable after the date of enactment of this Act.”

The full coverage from Coinnet.news is here and here.

Two thoughts on this news:

  1. Holy 2009 Proof Set, Batman. Let’s count up the coins for the 2009 proof set:

    That’s a total of 18 coins, and that’s not including the “P” and “D” versions, or any special proof varieties, like the copper-versions of the new pennies. That is going to be one fat proof set, likely 4 lens, minimum, at a pretty steep cost.  (Note: based on comments, I’ve correct the lines on the Native American dollar coins to correctly reflect their mintage at one per year, on the back of Sacajawea dollars.)

  2. What price the original Presidential dollar coins? The original Presidential dollar coins may now become more valuable, as they may end up the only “edge-incused” US coins ever. Not sure how this will affect prices in the short term, but now that this is confirmed, it’s an interesting side effect.

2008 First Spouse Coin Designs Now Available (Elizabeth Monroe, Louisa Adams, Jackson’s Liberty, Van Buren’s Liberty)

Interesting coins news today. Laura Bush unveiled the 2008 First Spouse coin designs today in a ceremony celebrating the release of the Dolley Madison coins, the fourth in the First Spouse series.

From the US Mint Website:

Washington, D.C. – Director of the United States Mint Ed Moy joined Mrs. Laura Bush in the White House East Room today for a ceremony celebrating the First Spouse Gold Coin Program. The collectible First Spouse Gold Coins, inaugurated this year, mark the first U.S. coin series consecutively honoring women.

The designs for the 2008 First Spouse Gold Coins were on display for the first time during today’s ceremony.The new 2008 coins will feature images of Elizabeth Monroe, Louisa Adams, Andrew Jackson’s Liberty and Martin Van Buren’s Liberty.

“This is the first time in American history that women are featured on a consecutive series of coins,” noted Director Moy.”And, it is the first time our First Ladies are gracing coins made of 24-karat gold.”

Much of today’s ceremony focused on the final coin of 2007 honoring First Lady Dolley Madison, with Dolley Madison re-enactor Lucinda Frailly of Canton, Ohio, in full costume discussing the colorful First Lady’s accomplishments.Children from two schools near Montpelier, Virginia, the home of James and Dolley Madison, attended the event.

Mrs. Bush highlighted the historical contributions made by the nation’s First Ladies. “America’s first ladies have guided, comforted and sustained our nation in times of trial and triumph. At the same time, they’ve fulfilled their other very important role-and that is the wife of the President of the United States,” she said. “The East Room is the perfect place to honor these remarkable women, especially one of America’s most beloved First Ladies: Dolley Madison.”

The following images come from The US Mint Press Room:

Elizabeth Monroe

Louisa Adams

Jackson’s Liberty

Van Buren’s Liberty

In other news, you can still get your Dolley Madison First Spouse coins from the US Mint. The proof version price has risen to $529.95, a $100 increase from the first three coins. The uncirculated version is worth $510.95.

It’s unclear whether the higher price means that the value of the previous three coins has now risen roughly $100. We’ll see the pricing on eBay as this coin enters the market.

Dolley Madison First Spouse Coin Available at 12:00pm EST on November 19th, 2007

You heard it here first.

The US Mint website has been updated with a slight change to the release date of the Dolley Madison first spouse gold coin. Instead of being released on November 15th, like the James Madison dollar coins, Dolley will be joining us the following week.

Here is the last of the new products schedule listed on the US Mint website:

November 15 James Madison $1 Coin Bags and Rolls
November 19 Dolley Madison – First Spouse Gold Proof Coin
November 19 Dolley Madison – First Spouse Gold Uncirculated Coin
November 19 Dolley Madison – First Spouse Bronze Medal 1 5/16″
November 19 First Spouse Four-Coin Proof Presentation Case
November 19 First Spouse Four-Coin Uncirculated Presentation Case

The last First Spouse coin took much longer to sell out – I wonder if this will be the first coin to actually see a lower-than-planned mintage number? The current plan is to mint 20,000 proof and 20,000 uncirculated versions.

Update (11/17/2007):  If you are interested in buying James Madison original bank rolls, please see my post here.

Are You Ready for James Madison? (Presidential $1 Dollar Coin Program)

That’s right, coin fans.  The 4th coin in the Presidential $1 Dollar Coin series will soon be available, and in banks on November 15th.  The US Mint has a blurb up now, and will have bags and coins of collector versions ready for sale at the US Mint website.

Of course, these coins are already available in proof and uncirculated versions in the annual coin sets.  I have several of the 14-coin Silver Proof sets for 2007, and the lens with the 4 Presidential $1 Dollar Coins from 2007 is really gorgeous.

As usual, I will have rolls for sale on eBay.  I actually still have rolls available for George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson.  I even have a couple 2007 Silver Proof Sets for sale.

New eBay Guide: The Native American $1 Dollar Coin Program

Yes, despite my lack of support for the initative, I have documented what information I have available about the new 2009 $1 dollar coin program in this eBay Guide:

The Native American $1 Dollar Coin Program

It now joins my other four eBay Guides:

Interestingly, these four guides have accrued enough positive  votes to make me one of the “Top 1000” reviewers on eBay.  In fact, I’m currently ranked #275 as of the writing of this post.

If I get to the Top 100, I get a different badge by my user ID, and you know, I’m all about eBay badges.  So if you have an eBay account, vote “yes” on my guides to recommend them.  If you don’t like them, well, don’t vote “no”.  That hurts my ranking.

Proof That I Don’t Like All US Coin Programs

Why am I not surprised?  George W. Bush just signed into the law the worst $1 Coin program concept ever (and that is a decent hurdle to clear).

Bush Signs the “Native Americans $1 Coin Act”.

Here is my blog post about the bill, as it was in Congress.  From another blog, some additional coverage.
I guess both the House & the Senate get two thumbs down for passing this also.  I predict this will set a record for the lowest number of coins to make it out of the US Treasury vaults, ever.

What a Mess. The Native American $1 Coin Act.

Oh boy.  Caught this article about The Native American $1 Coin Act.  What a mess.

In the final step before becoming a law, congress presented the president with H.R. 2358, Native American $1 Coin Act, for his signature. Introduced in the House of Representatives by Dale Kildee (D-MI 5th), and expected to be signed by the president, the bill calls for the reverse of the Sacagawea Dollar be redesigned every year to commemorate “of Native Americans and the important contributions made by Indian tribes and individual Native Americans to the development of the United States and the history of the United States.” The obverse will continue to have the Sacagawea design.

You know, this is pretty much “jump the shark” territory for coin series.  After all, it’s not like there is any demand for the Sacagawea dollar coins now.  Frankly, they haven’t even found a use for the original mintage from the year 2000.

The Presidential $1 Dollar Coins seem to have decent demand with collectors, but no one seems to be using these in circulation for obvious reasons – until the $1 Bill goes away, there’s just no reason to.

Creating new series of specialty faces on circulating coins is not a guaranteed winner… just ask the 10 people who actually cared about the 5 versions of the Nickel that went out in 2004-2006.  Oh, did you miss that series?  🙂

The US is already dealing with:

  • The end of the highly successful US State Quarter series, which finishes off in 2008 with the last five states.  Of course, H.R. 392 would like to extend it to the District of Columbia and the five US territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, Samoa, Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands).
  • The next decade of US Presidential $1 Dollar Coins, at a rate of 4 per year, through 2016 at least.
  • The next decade of US Presidential First Spouse gold coins, at a rate of 4 per year.
  • The new 24K Gold Buffalo 0.9999 pure bullion coin.
  • The 2009 Penny series to celebrate a century of the Lincoln cent.

So, my apologies to the US Congreesmen sponsoring HR 2358. You can count me out on any series based on the Sacagawea dollar.

US Mint Halts Gold Coin Sales Based on Gold Price Jump

Interesting article this week from CoinNews.net:

The price of gold has jumped in the last thirty days from a low of $648 an ounce to a high of $711.75. If you’ve invested in gold, you’re loving it. If you’re the United States Mint, you’re hating it.

The increased price of gold is affecting the US Mint’s bottom line. So much so that late this afternoon, September 13, the U.S. Mint suspended the sale of all their 2007 American Eagle Gold Uncirculated coins.

The Mint needs to adjust their prices, pushing them up higher. Here’s a listing of the suspended gold coins (at least so far) and their former prices:

  • 2007 American Eagle Gold Uncirculated One Ounce Coin, Price: $749.95
  • 2007 American Eagle Gold Uncirculated One-Half Ounce Coin,
    Price: $379.95
  • 2007 American Eagle Gold Uncirculated One-Quarter Ounce Coin, Price: $195.95
  • 2007 American Eagle Gold Uncirculated One-Tenth Ounce Coin, Price: $89.95
  • 2007 American Eagle Gold Uncirculated Four-Coin Set,
    Price: $1,379.95

The following statement was posted on the U.S. Mint web site for each of the coins they suspended:

Due to the increasing market value of gold, the American Eagle Gold Uncirculated Coins are temporarily unavailable while pricing for this option can be adjusted; therefore, no orders can be taken at this time. We expect products to be available with adjusted pricing on or after September 27, 2007.

I’m a little surprised.  After all, the US Mint is largely working off inventory that has already been created.  I didn’t think the Mint was that “margin sensitive”.  Still, in the end, it’s not surprising that a sharp spike in gold prices would make them revisit pricing.

I notice that they did not feel the need to reprice the 1/2 ounce gold first spouse coins.  Maybe they were scared to given all of the fulfillment issues.  I’m still waiting on Thomas Jefferson’s Liberty coin.

This should be a boost for anyone who did order gold coins this year.  The eBay price tends to quickly jump to the latest coin prices at the US Mint plus some margin.  So, if you got the gold eagles at a cheaper price, you might be able to sell for an immediate profit.

Wow! Thomas Jefferson’s First Spouse Coin Takes Down the US Mint

9:18 am (PST): I’ve been trying for fifteen minutes to get into the US Mint website to order the Thomas Jefferson First Spouse gold coin.  Very very slow.  Most pages are not loading – I’m getting about 1 out of 10 browser windows actually serving a page.I tried calling the 800 number, but AT&T is giving me an error that says the call cannot go through.

I think that the demand today is crazy.I did actually get the first spouse coin page once… but it said it won’t be available until 12pm Aug 30th ET… of course, that was 15 minutes ago.  When I try to sign-in to the site, I get a page cannot load error.

I think the lightweight, low-end web infrastructure for the US Mint just gave up the ghost on this one.

 9:23 am PST: I’ve just managed to login… now trying to get back to the TJ first spouse page. Very slow, lots of page failures. But it feels like it’s getting better.

9:25 am PST: I’ve just managed to click “add to cart”. Let’s see if this goes through. My guess is that they started the rollout of the updated site configuration for the ordering at 12pm EST, but it took longer than expected to deploy. I don’t think the US Mint is set up for this type of “wire on” situation.

9:26am PST: I have two browser windows hitting the site now, which is helping. I’ve just clicked checkout. Since I have quick checkout configured, I’m hoping I’m close to home free.

9:29 pm PST: DRAT! The connection timed out. Lost my checkout. Trying to recover. I thought I was home free. Quick Checkout is failing… will try normal checkout.

9:31 am PST: Quick Checkout works again! I’m clicking “place order”… let’s hope this goes through. This is unbelievable.

9:33 am PST: Are you kidding me? The page is still loading. The place order has not completed. Do I stop? Do I try again? This is a surprising amount of suspense for a coin order…

9:34 am PST: The order went through. The coin is showing as backordered, but I have an order number. Crazy. I guess you have to be persistent these days to bag a first spouse coin.

Now, I have real work to do…

Now Available: Thomas Jefferson Presidential Dollar Coin Rolls

I’ve recently received two full boxes of the new Thomas Jefferson Presidential Dollar Coins. As usual, I’ve put them up for sale on eBay. These coins are actually dated June 20th, which is one of the earliest dates I have seen.

Interestingly, the boxes for the Thomas Jefferson bank roll boxes are white instead of brown. Otherwise, to my eye, they are identical to the earlier George Washington and John Adams rolls.

You can find the listing for the Thomas Jefferson rolls here on eBay.

I still have some John Adams & George Washington rolls remaining. I’ll be putting up a specific listing in case you might be interested in buying all three together.